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The Brief: Top Texas News for March 23, 2011

Voter ID, after a false start of sorts on Monday, hits the House floor again today.

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The Big Conversation:

Voter ID, after a false start of sorts on Monday, hits the House floor again today.

The controversial legislation — which would require Texans to present a form of photo identification before voting — hit a speed bump earlier this week when state Rep. Armando Martinez, D-Weslaco, called a point of order over a discrepancy in the bill's wording (in a nutshell: "days" vs. "calendar days").

Martinez's objection was sustained, and a redrafted bill was sent back to committee.

Today, Democrats — under no illusions about the bill's inevitable passage, given Republicans' supermajority in the House — will use similar strategies while they break out their last resort: stalling. At least three dozen amendments are expected to be thrown at the bill, and debate could last well into the night. (The bill has already cleared the Senate.)

Republicans have expressed frustration over Democrats' insistence on fighting. "It's going to pass," Rep. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, told the Houston Chronicle earlier this week. "I don't see the benefit of just dragging it out and making it painful for everybody."

But Democrats, the Chronicle noted, will also be able to use the official legislative record in any court challenge to the bill, for which some are already prepping.

Also to watch out for today: the House Appropriations Committee meeting, at which lawmakers will consider House Bill 1, the House's version of the budget, which lawmakers hope to get to the House floor by the end of the week.

Culled:

  • A disk containing the Social Security numbers of every student in the Laredo Independent School District — 24,903 in total — has gone missing, the Tribune's Julián Aguilar and Morgan Smith reported Tuesday. 
  • The Senate Education Committee heard testimony on three anti-bullying bills Tuesday. All three, authored by Democrats and meant to give schools greater access to tools with which to protect bullied children (and prevent cyberbullying), were left pending in committee. "If we sit back and hide too carefully behind the protections of the First Amendment, we may miss an opportunity to save a child's life," Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, said in response to criticism that her bill, which would allow schools to target off-campus behavior, could violate constitutional rights.

"We don't provide free college tuition for anyone else like this, so with the budget crisis we're facing, why should we for convicted felons?" — House Corrections Committee Chairman Jerry Madden, R-Plano, on a state prison program that allows inmates to work toward college degrees. The program could be cut as lawmakers scrounge for savings. 

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